Did you recently start a new fitness program? Every year people vow to get fit and start working out or intensify existing programs. All is well until sore muscles and fatigue take hold.
Rest and recovery are just as important to improving physical fitness as the actual workouts. Try these tips to enhance your workout recovery.
Please keep in mind that this article is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. It is general information that may or may not apply to your specific situation.
6 Workout Recovery Tips (& A Few Bonus Tips)
1. Consider Taking Baseline Heart Rate Variability (Hrv) & Resting Heart Rate Readings
Tracking key metrics helps you evaluate your workout recovery. For example, one days when you are well rested your heart rate variability (HRV) will be high and your resting heart rate comparatively low. By taking these readings daily, you get a sense of your baseline and will know when something is stressing your body.
Tracking these metrics also indicate improvement in your fitness before you see those results on the scale or in the mirror. Over time, your HRV will likely trend up even in times of stress than it did when you were less fit. Your Biostrap helps you gauge your recovery and optimize your program in response.
2. Pre-hydrate And Stay Hydrated
Dehydration stresses the body and it lowers your HRV. Staying well hydrated during your workout helps provide you with stamina to power through your workout. Fatigue is one sign of dehydration.
For best results, pre-hydrate the day before your workout. Rehydrate during your workout and after. Just don't go overboard, as excessive hydration causes a different set of issues. Healthy moderation is always important even with healthy behaviors.
3. Make A Plan (Or Hire A Trainer To Make One)
A well-designed, progressive, periodized workout plan helps optimize fitness gains and workout recovery. The plan should schedule sufficient rest following vigorous workouts. Sometimes elite athletes engage in more aggressive plans to work towards performance goals, but they generally do this under the supervision of an experienced trainer or coach.
General Guidelines: The American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests a mix of aerobic exercise, strength training, and mobility or flexibility training during the week. They also suggest frequency for each type of activity to build or maintain fitness without overtraining or risking injury. A qualified trainer can also design a program
4. Warm-up, Pace Yourself According To Your Goals, And Cool Down
Some trainers include foam roller massage in their warm up. Foam rollers provide Myofascial release. Another popular warm up trend is the inclusion of mobility exercises, dynamic stretches, and pre-hab exercises. Pre-hab work includes mild exercises that strengthen areas that are commonly injured like the shoulders, knees, etc. Many of these exercises look similar to physical therapy rehab exercises only the goal is to prevent injury.
Pace yourself according to your workout goals and your own exertion. For example, if you are doing a strength building workout you choose the resistance level that challenges and exhausts your muscles within the prescribed rep range. During an aerobic workout the goal is different and you pace yourself according to that goal.
The jury is out on the necessity of post-workout cool downs. However, many feel better if they take advantage of the time to stretch, practice Myofascial release, or relax.
5. Eat Healthy Foods And Get A Good Night's Sleep
Good nutrition fuels your activity, recovery, and your life. Remember that maxim you are what you eat? A healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for your health and fitness. In addition, remember to get enough restful sleep as that is when the body repairs itself. We previously published an article on the importance of sleep to your fitness and health.
6. Take A Rest Day Or Active Recovery Day When Needed
According to a Runner's World article, "Optimal recovery includes both complete rest and active recovery."
A rest day is a day that doesn't include any exercise. You would just go about your day without a workout.
An active recovery day would include lighter or lower intensity activity. Typical active recovery activities include yoga, walking, gentle low or non impact exercise, recreational activities like golf or dancing. The idea is to help the body heal through gentle movement and increased blood flow. Generally you would crosstrain with a different activity than your primary sport or workout to avoid overuse injuries. The best option depends on your existing fitness level and the intensity of your more vigorous workouts.
Bonus: Other Tips That May Help
- Ice Packs or Cold Therapy - some athletes swear by icing to prevent soreness and injury
- Epsom Salt Baths soothe sore and fatigued muscles for many people.
- Foam Roller Massage (a form of Myofascial release) is another popular trend in workout recovery. Be sure to ask a trainer, therapist, or bodywork professional to teach you correct use of one.
Sometimes when people start a new workout program they forget to give themselves permission to rest and recover. Sufficient recovery is essential if you want to reach your fitness goals and live your best life.
Sources And Resources
A Guide to Foam Rolling by Monica Nelson, US News and World Report
What's the Difference Between Rest and Active Recovery? By Jenny Hadfield, Runner's World
How to Create an Effective Fitness Plan, American Council on Exercise